Friday, January 30, 2009

Georgian opposition demands Saakashvili resign

Georgia's opposition, in a rare show of unity, issued a joint declaration on Thursday accusing President Mikheil Saakashvili of leading the country to "catastrophe" and demanding his resignation. Saakashvili's opponents are trying to build on the political fallout from his military defeat to Russia in last year's war, but analysts say they lack clear direction or strong leadership.
The leaders of around a dozen opposition parties put their signatures to a declaration calling on Saakashvili to quit and hold free and fair elections for president and parliament.
"Mikheil Saakashvili and his team, in their five years in power, have led the country to catastrophe," it read.

"It is the patriotic duty of every Georgian citizen to do their best in the shortest period possible to change this government by all constitutional means."

Presidential and parliamentary elections in the former Soviet republic are due in 2013. Saakashvili has ruled out early polls, brushing off opposition accusations he walked into a war Georgia could not possibly win.

Russia and Georgia fought a five-day conflict in August when Russian troops repelled a Georgian assault on the breakaway pro-Russian region of South Ossetia, which had thrown off Tbilisi's rule in the early 1990s.


Russia recognised South Ossetia and Georgia's second breakaway region of Abkhazia as independent states. Russia has thousands of troops stationed in both regions.
Around 20,000 Georgian villagers remain displaced. Some are afraid to return to South Ossetia, others have no home to go to after they were razed by militias.
Economic growth slowed dramatically after the war just as the global financial crisis was about to take hold.

Saakashvili says he acted to defend Georgian villages in South Ossetia from separatist and Russian aggression. Opponents say he walked into a trap.

The conflict renewed criticism of Saakashvili's record on democracy since coming to power on the back of the peaceful "Rose Revolution" of 2003.

Critics accuse him of stifling the media and concentrating power on his handpicked inner circle.
"We are united in one goal -- salvation of our country, and salvation is possible only if President Saakashvili resigns and calls snap elections," said Salome Zurabishvili, leader of Georgia's Way.
Saakashvili has promised greater freedom for the media and to cede some powers from the presidency, but analysts say he will have to follow through with both political and economic reforms if he is to ride out the downturn without social unrest.

New Book on South Ossetian Genocide Was Published

A new book titled "The Tragedy of South Ossetia: A Limitless Genocide" has been published in South Ossetia. The author of the book is Alexei Margiev an well-known gatherer of information on South Ossetia's contemporary history.This compilation contains about a thousand pictures depicting the whole tragedy of the aggression committed by Georgia against South Ossetia.

Even those who were not well-informed about the events could gain a clear understanding of the scope of evil and the treats the population of South Ossetia had to face, how close the South Ossetian ethnos was to accomplishment of its foe's plans, if only the people had not hold their arms and defend themselves.The text of the compilation is in Russian, English and in some cases in Ossetian, Georgianm German, and French languages.

This would certainly broaden the number of readers.The events of the Year 2004 when the authorities of Georgia headed by Saakashvili had again attempted a forceful settlement of the South Ossetian problem, are collected into a separate chapter.In general, the book is a document brightly revealing the Georgian aggression against South Ossetia on the one hand, and evidence of heroism of the Ossetian people o the other hand.

Russia stands by recognition of Abkhazia, S.Ossetia - speaker

Russia will never withdraw its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia's independence, the speaker of the lower house of parliament said on Thursday.

"All MPs meeting at PACE, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly should operate on the premise that it is pointless to suggest that a reversal is possible. Russia has recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and that is for all time," Boris Gryzlov said.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia were recognized as independent by Russia last August following Georgia's assault on South Ossetia and Moscow's five-day military operation to force Tbilisi to peace. Nicaragua soon followed Russia's lead in recognizing the republics, but no other country has done so.

In a resolution adopted on Wednesday, PACE condemned Moscow's recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but stopped short of imposing any sanctions against Russia.

The Assembly reiterated the call for Russia to withdraw its recognition of the two breakaway republics.

Gryzlov said nothing would force Russia to change its position, adding that it was "useless" to make such appeals.

"We have repeatedly stated during meetings with MPs from other countries that there is no going back," he said.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Russia waiting for NATO to explain its stance on Georgia

Russia expects NATO to make clear the reasons for its position on Georgia before it begins developing intensive military cooperation with the alliance, the Russian envoy to NATO said on Wednesday.

Russia-NATO cooperation was frozen after Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war in August that began when Georgian forces attacked breakaway South Ossetia in a bid to bring it back under central control. NATO called Russia's military response to the attack "disproportionate," and also condemned Moscow's subsequent decision to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway republic.

"After what happened in the Caucasus, after the alliance's unbridled support for Georgian leader [Mikheil] Saakashvili, any talk now of forms of intensive cooperation in the military sphere is out of the question. We would first like to hear NATO presenting, if not apologies, then at least explanations for its political stance regarding Georgia," Dmitry Rogozin told the Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper.

The interview was also posted on the official Russian Foreign Ministry website.
Despite the freeze in cooperation, Russia continued its work with NATO on a number of issues, including arms control and Afghanistan.

NATO foreign ministers agreed in early December to gradually restore contacts with Moscow. The Russian mission at NATO headquarters said on Monday that Russia's envoy to the alliance had resumed informal talks earlier that day with NATO ambassadors in Brussels.

Boris Grizlov – Russia Recognized Independence of Ossetia and Abkhazia and Decision is Eternal

Boris Grizlov, Speaker of Russian DUMA called his colleagues from the West not to raise the issue apropos recognition of independence of Abkhazia and so called south Ossetia by the Russian Federation. News agency Interfax reports regarding this.

‘Talking about withdrawing the decision is just in vain. Russia recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the decision is eternal.’ -Boris Grizlov declared commenting the resolution adopted by Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

The resolution, adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe yesterday, calls Russia to withdraw it decision on unilateral recognition of Georgia’s breakaway regions.

Thomas Hammarberg to pay a visit to Georgia in February

Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights will pay a visit to Georgia in February. RIA Novosti reports regarding this.In the frame of his visit Thomas Hammarberg will visit Abkhazia as well.

The official also plans to visit North Ossetia and Ingushetia, as well as Moscow to meet with local officials and representatives of non-government groups and civic organizations. Thomas Hammarberg is expected to present his final report on the situation in the area of the Tskhinvali region in late spring.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Public health Ministry RD rendered humanitarian aid to South Ossetian hospitals

Within the framework of humanitarian assistance, the Public health Ministry of Dagestan has sent the car UAZ equipped with modern medical devices to the republic of South Ossetia.
As to Zarina Agmadova, the press secretary of the Ministry, K.Kurbanov, the director of Dagestan center of catastrophe medicine has been entrusted with the transportation of medical equipment to Tskhinval.

Besides, South Ossetia will receive diagnostic and medical apparatus, cardiographs "Aksion", devices of artificial pulmonary ventilation, etc. "All the equipment is intended for rendering acute care",- Zarina Agmadova concluded. Ossetian physicians will also use Dagestan physiotherapeutic and other equipment during the daily medical work.

Newborn independent states to be marked on maps

The legal registration of Russia's shared borders with newly proclaimed independent states began on Tuesday with the appointment of the special presidential representative on the demarcation of borders with CIS countries. Following Georgia's aggression against South Ossetia in August 2008, Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. Now the new borders of those states are to appear on Russian maps.

However, Russia's Foreign Ministry has said Tbilisi has not agreed to the demarcation of borders with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia's Foreign Ministry labeled these actions as another attempt by Russia to annex its territory.

Tbilisi has sought to annex a number of territories, including areas of the Black Sea, which belong to Russia according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) approved in 1982.

Georgia has also laid claim to the Roksky tunnel connecting Russia and South Ossetia. It was built during the Soviet era and is strategically important for both Russia and Georgia, as it is the only corridor leading from North Ossetia in Russia's southern Caucasus to South Ossetia and the adjoining Caucasus states.

The clarification of borders is particularly important now as the development of mountain areas bordering Abkhazia, which will host the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, places the border question on the international agenda.

Abkhazian authorities had previously noted that border negotiations with Russia had not yet been conducted.

Multi-coloured maps coming soon

In the near future, the Russian Federal Geodesy and Cartography Agency will publish maps in which the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia will be marked in colours different from Georgia's. The capitals of the republics will be designated as Sukhum and Tshinval.
Based upon the recommendation of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the full names of the new states will be the Republic of Abkhazia, and the Republic of South Ossetia.
Radmil Shayapov, deputy head of the agency, said they have already published a desktop map with a calendar for 2009 in which Abkhazia and South Ossetia are printed in colours different from Georgia.

Fact box: The Independent Republics

On August 26, 2008, South Ossetia and Abkhazia were recognised as being independent by a decree signed by the Russian President shortly after last year's conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia. Later, the independence of both republics was also recognised by Nicaragua.
On September 9, Russia established diplomatic relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which had separated from Georgia in the 1990s.

On September 17, Russia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia signed treaties declaring their friendship, cooperation and mutual aid.

On January 16, the first ambassadors from Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Russia presented their credentials to President Medvedev in the Kremlin.
Presently, the republics continue searching for international recognition.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Russia urged to act as third party in intl hearings of Georgia's actionsin S. Ossetia

The European Court of Human Rights has proposed that Russia act as a third party, when complaints against Georgia's aggression against South Ossetia in August 2008 are heard.

"Following an initial assessment of the seven complaints filed by victims of Georgia's actions, the court proposed that the Russia state decide before April 30 whether it would act as a third party in these hearings," a Russian Justice Ministry official told Interfax on Monday.
The relevant letter has arrived at the office of the Russian envoy to the European Court of Human Rights, he said.

The European Court has forwarded to the Georgian government the first seven individual complaints from victims of hostilities in South Ossetia "against abuses of human rights, guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, and of the basic liberties, committed by the Georgian authorities during military operations in South Ossetia in August 2008," he said. The European Court had earlier announced its would hold priority hearings of six complaints filed by residents of South Ossetia and one by a Russian serviceman. In total, over 3,300 such complaints have been filed, the court said.

Moscow worried by Georgian build-up near South Ossetia, Abkhazia

The Russian foreign ministry Friday said Georgia's expanding military presence on the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia continued to be a matter for grave concern.

It said the Georgian military and the police presence called for 'special attention on the part of the UN and other international organisations operating in the region'.

A week ago, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference that: 'EU monitors working in areas adjacent to South Ossetia and Abkhazia have been reporting a build-up of Georgian military units and special forces near the borders with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and our 'technical devices' have also recorded this. Provocations also occur sporadically. We are concerned by this.'

Moscow Thursday criticised a refusal by Tbilisi to allow Russian inspectors to access military installations on its territory. Russia requested Georgia to allow its experts access to Georgian military installations for evaluation and verification in accordance with a 1999 Vienna OSCE (the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) document on confidence and security-building measures. Georgia rejected the request.

Terry Davis: "We cannot render psychological assistance to juveniles injured as a result of South Ossetia conflict"

Secretary General of the Council of Europe expressed regret at not realizing their programs in South Ossetia, APA's special correspondent reports from Strasbourg.

Mr. Davis noted that the Council of Europe initiated to render psychological assistance to juveniles injured as a result of south Ossetia conflict.

"We cannot enter South Ossetia and therefore programs are not realized", he added. The CE Secretary General underlined that both Russia and Georgia were guilty of conflict occurred in August and stressed that these countries did not implement commitments undertaken to the Council of Europe.

NATO head, Russia's Ivanov to discuss resuming ties Feb. 6

NATO's secretary general and a Russian deputy prime minister will meet on February 6 to discuss resuming cooperation frozen after the Georgia-South Ossetia conflict, Russia's envoy to the military alliance said on Monday. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Sergei Ivanov will meet on the sidelines of the Munich security conference, at which Ivanov will head the Russian delegation, Dmitry Rogozin said.

"During the meeting, new steps toward restoring cooperation will be discussed," he said. Rogozin resumed informal talks earlier on Monday with NATO ambassadors in Brussels. He said it was "a tough and very frank but at the same time diplomatic exchange."

He reiterated Moscow's opposition to the "bloc-related" approach that NATO had demonstrated in contacts with Russia, but added that the military alliance was gradually moving away from this stance.

Relations between NATO and Russia sank to their lowest since the end of the Cold War after Moscow and Tbilisi fought a brief military conflict over Georgia's breakaway republic of South Ossetia.

Two weeks after the end of hostilities Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway province, as independent states. NATO called Russia's military response to Georgia's attack on South Ossetia "disproportionate" and condemned Moscow's decision to recognize the former Georgian republics.

In response to NATO's decision to halt cooperation, Russia put on hold a number of programs, including the Partnership for Peace program, a high-level visit to Moscow, some joint naval drills and NATO visits to Russian ports. However Russia continued its work with NATO on arms control, cooperation in airspace, and the war in Afghanistan. NATO foreign ministers agreed in early December at a meeting in Brussels to gradually restore contacts with Moscow.

Georgia 'seizes Russian soldier'

Russia has accused Georgia of capturing a Russian soldier in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia, Russian news agencies report.

A Russian defence ministry spokesman said soldier Alexander Glukhov had been seized in the Akhalgori region. Georgia's interior ministry said the soldier had surrendered to its police, requesting Georgian citizenship.

The Akhalgori region was under Tbilisi's control until last August's war between Georgia and Russia. During the brief war, Georgia's attempts to regain control of South Ossetia were repelled by Russian forces.

Tbilisi has urged Moscow to withdraw forces from Akhalgori after the conflict ended with an EU-brokered ceasefire.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Six months after the war, Georgia looks very different

For a few days last summer Georgia was under the world spotlight, portrayed by Mikheil Saakashvili, its president, as a victim of Russian aggression on a par with the invasion of Hungary in 1956 or Hitler's blitzkriegs. As Russian tanks rolled across northern Georgia and smoke from burning villages plumed into the sky, western politicians and the media rushed into talk of a new cold war.

Six months later, Georgia is a different place. Leading figures in the opposition openly blame Saakashvili for the five-day war. So, too, do several recent defectors from his team, including two who were his standard-bearers last summer at the United Nations and in Moscow.

On Barack Obama's international agenda Georgia is not the top item, but Saakashvili as well as his opponents are looking to Washington for any sign of a new approach. Georgia and Russia are clearly linked, but which is the dog and which the tail? How the new US president answers that question will shed light not just on the value he puts on good relations with Moscow, but also on his understanding of how far democracy has advanced, or retreated, in the former Soviet republics.

Under Bush Georgia was a favourite, touted as a fledgling democracy with a US-educated leader representing western standards. Saakashvili had come to power in 2003 after demonstrations over rigged elections forced Eduard Shevardnadze, a former member of the Soviet nomenklatura and one-time Soviet foreign minister, to resign. Dubbed the Rose revolution, it became the template for Ukraine's Orange revolution in 2004.

The west's labelling of Saakashvili as a democrat staggers Georgia's opposition politicians. They deplore the way that Saakashvili's enthusiasm for joining Nato, plus an almost total lack of serious foreign media attention, allowed him to escape rigorous scrutiny. They point to constant slippage since the Rose revolution, from constitutional changes that emasculated parliament to the gradual takeover of the main television channels, pressure on businessmen to join the ruling party or toe its line, the sacking of independent administrators and, finally, the same faults that undid Shevardnadze - election-rigging.

"Saakashvili was our Obama. After 10 years of Shevardnadze people wanted change. But now we are no different from Azerbaijan or Turkmenistan," says Erosi Kitsmarishvili, a businessman who was in charge of the Rustavi 2 television station that helped to bring crowds into the streets five years ago. Along with Zurab Zhvania, who became prime minister, and Nino Burdzhanadze, who became speaker of parliament, he was seen as the third key member of the group that put Saakashvili in power. Zhvania died in a mysterious accident in 2005, which many Georgians assume was murder. Burdzhanadze resigned a few months before the August war, and now wants Saakashvili to.

George Khutsishvili, who heads the International Centre on Conflict and Negotiations, says Saakashvili and the half-dozen loyalists who form the core of his regime have cynical motives in allowing opposition newspapers, small television stations, and political parties. "These people had authoritarian instincts from the beginning but they had to maintain some sort of liberal democratic slogans. These people want velvet authoritarianism," he adds. As Obama was taking his oath of office last week, Khutsishvili was at the US embassy delivering a letter from several civil society groups. It urged the new president not to limit his Georgian contacts to the government.

If their demands seem remote from last August's war and the presence today of thousands of Russian troops in the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Saakashvili's opponents see a connection. David Akubardia, who runs the Kavkasia television station, claims the president turned to war after tens of thousands took to the streets to protest against the results of parliamentary elections. "He began this adventure. He wanted to transfer popular hatred of him to hatred against the Russians," he says. He points out that even according to official figures for the presidential poll last January, Saakashvili was defeated.

David Usupashvili, who chairs the Republican party, puts the same point more softly. Describing the August war as the "logical end" of months of Saakashvili's manipulation of Georgia's domestic politics, he says: "Until August 80% of responsibility [for the war] was on the Russian side. They were taking these regions away from Georgia step by step. During the night of 7 August [when Georgian forces launched a bombardment of the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, and entered the city] 70% of the blame was on Saakashvili's side."

A mood of resignation now affects most Georgians. Thanks to the war, South Ossetia and Abkhazia are seen as lost, for at least a decade, if not for ever. Foreign humanitarian workers in contact with refugees who fled the two regions in the early 1990s say their dream of going home was shattered in August. For the new wave of refugees, trying to rebuild lives and find jobs, the shock of sudden homelessness is too severe to allow much speculation about eventual return. But here, too, criticism of Saakashvili can be heard. "You Europeans and America put this president in. Please take him away," a woman in a small cottage on a government estate for displaced people told me. She did not want her name to be used.

Ministers reject the criticisms and describe the top defectors as grumblers who always wanted more power or to use their government jobs for self-enrichment. They insist Moscow started the war. Temuri Yakobashvili, the minister for reintegration, says the army's advance on Tskhinvali was not an attempt to liberate the region but a military necessity to block a Russian invasion that was already under way. "If you want to defend Georgian villages north of Tskhinvali, the only way was through Tskhinvali. The Russians could have been in Tbilisi if we hadn't gone to Tskhinvali. We won time and were able to stop the Russians from advancing across Georgia," he says.

Whether Obama accepts this case or the opposition's will become clear later. The crucial point is that last summer's image of a little democracy trying to resist the advances of a brutal giant was flawed. More and more Georgians are asking why they found themselves at war and if their president can be trusted. Obama's people, as well as European governments, need to listen hard.

Russia's envoy to meet with NATO ambassadors in Brussels

Russia's envoy to NATO will hold an informal meeting on Monday with NATO ambassadors in Brussels, the Russian mission at NATO headquarters said. The meeting, which was agreed on December 19 during talks between Dmitry Rogozin and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, could pave the way for the resumption in full-fledged cooperation between Russia and the alliance.
"We have achieved the level of political contacts, and their frequency will depend on NATO's readiness to realize the mistakes, made during the tragedy in the Caucasus," the mission quoted Rogozin as saying.

Relations between NATO and Russia sunk to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War after Moscow and Tbilisi fought a brief military conflict over Georgia's breakaway republic of South Ossetia.

Two weeks after the end of hostilities Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway province, as independent states. NATO called Russia's military response to Georgia's attack on South Ossetia "disproportionate" and condemned Moscow's decision to recognize the former Georgian republics.

In response to NATO's decision to halt cooperation, Russia put on hold a number of programs, including the Partnership for Peace program, a high-ranking visit to Moscow, some joint naval training and NATO visits to Russian ports.

However Russia continued its work with NATO on arms control, cooperation in airspace, and the war in Afghanistan.

NATO foreign ministers agreed in early December at a meeting in Brussels to gradually restore contacts with Moscow.

NATO secretary general earlier said that relations between the alliance and Russia will be discussed in detail at a meeting of foreign ministers, which will be attended for the first time by newly-appointed U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Georgia resumes gas supplies to South Ossetia

Moscow has welcomed the resumption of gas supplies to South Ossetia via Georgia. The flow was disrupted by the conflict in the Caucasus during the summer. In a statement posted on its website, the Foreign Ministry said it was "satisfied that common sense has prevailed in Tbilisi and the residents of South Ossetia and surrounding Georgian regions can now have heat and energy in their houses."

Irakli Nikolaishvili, Deputy General Director of Gerorgian gas supply company, Itera, said supplies of Russian gas to South Ossetia resumed on Saturday. By the end of January, 500,000 cubic metres of gas are expected to be delivered to the new Caucasus republic, he told Interfax.Georgia cut the supply to Tskhinval in August, saying that a section of pipeline in South Ossetia had been damaged.

The move left Georgia's former region without natural gas for almost six months. Russia raised the issue with international organisations and on January 22 Nino Enukidze, Georgia's deputy energy minister, said that gas supplies to the republic could resume in the near future.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Minsk may debate recognt of Abkhazia/S Ossetia independence in Apr

Belarussian parliamentarians consider expedient to debate the problem on recognising the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia at their spring session to be opened on April 2.
Chairman of the parliament’s commission for foreign affairs and relations with the CIS, Sergei Maskevich, told Itar-Tass on Thursday that “until now this problem is not included in the agenda of the upcoming session. I believe that we shouldn’t postpone debates on this issue. It has been finalised and our commission is ready to inform the lower house about our results in order to include this issue in the session’s agenda.”

In his words, the commission’s members are studying all aspects of this issue – political, international and legal ones.

Deputy head of the lower house of the Belarussian parliament, Valery Ivanov, said Belarus’ parliament would consider declaration of Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s independence at its session in April.

“The decision on recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s independence will be taken at our next session on April 2,” he said.

“At present, Belarus’ parliamentarians are discussing this issue,” he said adding that his counterparts would take “a well-balanced decision.”
At the end of 2008 Abkhazia and South Ossetia called on Belarus to recognise their independence.

OSCE Has High Hopes for South Ossetia Deal with Russia

The head of Europe's main security and rights body said Wednesday she was confident of reaching a deal with Russia to prevent the collapse of its monitoring in Georgia, seen by the West as crucial to stopping violence - Reuters informs.

Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyanni, on her first trip to Moscow since taking over the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe rotating chairmanship, said she would discuss the proposals with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

‘You cannot expect from a country to change the basic position which they have, but that does not mean we cannot find a solution in getting our missions in, this is something else and this should be possible'. she said.

Russia vetoed an extension to the mandate for military observers from the OSCE to Georgia late last year because it wanted a separate mission to Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia.
Western states have refused to comply with that because they say it would amount to de facto acknowledgement that South Ossetia is a sovereign state. Only Russia and Nicaragua have recognized the region as independent.

She said that the question of recognition for South Ossetia could be overcome and drew a parallel with her own country's participation in EU missions to Kosovo although Athens has not recognized Pristina's independence from Serbia.

‘We had the will and we found the formula, which made it absolutely clear that we don't recognize (Kosovo's independence), but ... allowed us to be in Kosovo,' she said.
Western states say OSCE monitors patrolling Georgia's conflict zone with South Ossetia can provide early warning of any new flare-up in hostilities, and investigate allegations of rights abuses against ethnic Georgians.

Western diplomats complain that the lack of access to South Ossetia means they are unclear about what is happening inside the region. A larger EU observer mission operating on Georgia's de facto border zone has been blocked from entering it.

Since 1992, 28 military observers from the Vienna-based OSCE have been based in Georgia. A sub-group in South Ossetia was the only international mission there and will have to stop all activities if the mandate is not extended by a February 18 deadline.

Russia launched a counter-attack against Georgia in August after Tbilisi's forces tried to retake Moscow-backed South Ossetia, which has declared independence from Georgia.
Bakoyanni declined to set out the precise details of her plan and said she does not intend to do so until she has made further progress with Moscow and Tbilisi.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Third round of talks on new Russia-EU deal set for Feb. 13

The third round of negotiations on a new Russia-EU cooperation agreement will take place in Brussels on February 13, Russia's EU envoy said on Wednesday.
Vladimir Chizhov said working groups were already meeting ahead of the talks.
The agreement would replace the 1997 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which was extended for a year when it expired in December 2007. Talks on a new deal have been repeatedly delayed, initially by Poland and Lithuania and most recently over Russia's August conflict with Georgia over South Ossetia.
A decision to resume the negotiations was made at the Russia-EU summit in Nice on November 14, despite objections from Lithuania.
Moscow earlier said that some EU members had tried to use the treaty issue to pressure Russia.
Russia meets a sizable share of Europe's energy needs, making many countries uneasy about dependence on Kremlin-controlled supplies. For its part, Russia has been hard hit by the global credit crunch and falling oil prices, and needs buyers for its natural resources.

PACE welcomes Russia’s intention to dialogue on Russia-Georgia conflict consequences

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) welcomes intention of the Russian authorities to engage in a constructive and open dialogue with the Assembly and Georgian partners to solve mutual concern in relation to the conflict, Lluís Maria de Puig, President of PACE, said. "I welcome the frank discussions with the Russian authorities and their willingness to engage in a constructive and open dialogue with the Assembly," said Lluís Maria de Puig, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), at the end of a visit of PACE's Presidential Committee to Moscow on Jan. 18 and 19, 2009.

The Assembly regrets that, as a result of this position, put forward by Russia, very few demands of the Resolution of PACE 1633(2008), have been met, the PACE press release said.
Resolution 1633 on the theme Consequences of the war between Georgia and Russia was adopted at the plenary session of PACE on Oct. 2. It states that the beginning of the war in South Ossetia could be unexpected, but the war was the result of a serious escalation of tension, provocation and associated deterioration in the security situation. PACE believes that Russia is fully responsible for the violation of human rights, humanitarian law in regions under its control.
The Presidential Committee visited Moscow to discuss the implementation of the Resolution with the highest Russian authorities, including the Speakers of the State Duma and Council of the Federation and Foreign Minister.

At the night of 8 August, large-scale military operations were launched in the self-declared South Ossetia republic. The Georgian troops entered Tskhinvali. Later the Russian troops entered the city and drove the Georgian forces back to the Georgian territory. On Aug. 26 Russia recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. On Sept. 9 Russia sets diplomatic relations with Abkhazia and S.Ossetia.

The Russian authorities during the meeting made their comments on the PACE Resolution, which is biased towards Russia.

"I regret that, as a result of this position, very few demands of the Assembly have been met," said Mr de Puig, stressing that the resolution provided a transparent, impartial and concrete roadmap to address the consequences of the war, not only for the parties concerned, but also for the Assembly itself.

"These are positive elements that will certainly be discussed during the debate at the forthcoming part-session of the Assembly in Strasbourg," said Mr de Puig.
The tension along the administrative borders between Georgia and the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia proves PACE's position that the continued presence of international monitors, with full and unrestricted access to all areas of the former conflict zone, is clearly needed, and that a new, internationalised format for the peacekeeping force should be established

The report of the Monitoring Committee on the implementation of Resolution 1633(2008) by Georgia and Russia, as well as the report of the Committee on Migration Refugees and Population on the humanitarian consequences of the war between Georgia and Russia, will be debated by the Assembly on Jan. 28, 2009.

Georgia says to resume gas supplies to S.Ossetia

Georgia said on Thursday it would resume gas supplies to its breakaway South Ossetia region, cut since war with Russia in August.

Russia accused Georgia of dragging its feet in mending the damaged pipeline with temperatures in the region at the foot of the Caucasus mountains plummeting below zero.
Georgia said the pipeline was damaged in a region occupied by Russian troops since August, making access difficult.

"The decision is made and supply of gas could be resumed either today or in a few days," Georgian Deputy Energy Minister Nino Enukidze told Reuters.

The director general of gas supplier Itera Georgia, David Beradze, told Reuters the pipeline was being tested and gas supply would resume soon.

The company waited for special government permission because of Georgian legislation prohibiting commercial activity on the territory of South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia -- both recognised by Russia as independent states and secured by Russian troops.
Russian gas giant Gazprom is building a new pipeline crossing the mountains to allow Russia to supply gas to South Ossetia directly.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Georgian leader may come under Obama scrutiny

Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili is one of the few world leaders who may rue the departure of George W. Bush when he gives way Tuesday to a U.S. president less likely to champion Tbilisi with such zeal. Saakashvili is losing his closest Western ally, a little over five years after he was propelled to power in the peaceful "Rose Revolution" and adopted as the poster boy for Bush's declared agenda of spreading freedom around the globe.

The relationship was personal.

Bush visited Tbilisi in May 2005 and described Georgia as a "beacon of liberty." Saakashvili named a Tbilisi street after Bush and sent 2,000 soldiers to fight in Iraq.
His image dented by August's brief war with Russia and by criticism of his record on democracy, Saakashvili needs allies. Washington, for its part, certainly cannot ignore a country that is a major transit territory for European energy supplies.

"Under the (Barack) Obama administration, I don't think they will throw Georgia under the train, but there won't be the same emphasis on using Georgia as a model of transition that they would like to see in other states," said Jeffrey Mankoff of the U.S.-based Council on Foreign Relations.

Critics say Saakashvili has failed to live up to his promise of democracy. He has stifled the media, judiciary and political opposition, and concentrated power on an inner circle largely blamed for taking the country into war with Russia.

Saakashvili, a U.S.-educated lawyer, denies squeezing democratic freedoms. He has unveiled a series of measures which he says will reduce presidential powers.
The Bush administration has been "unthinking and unblinking" in its support for Saakashvili, and was sorely let down in August when Georgia moved against pro-Russian separatists in breakaway South Ossetia, said James Nixey, a research fellow on the Russia and Eurasia Program at London's Chatham House.

Critics suggest Bush might have failed to make clear the limits of his indulgence, with disastrous consequences. Georgia's former envoy to Russia told a parliamentary inquiry Saakashvili believed he had U.S. backing for the strike on South Ossetia.
A new administration could bring greater pressure on Saakashvili to follow through with real reform, especially faced with a resurgent opposition that blames him for the war.
Nixey said a change at the White House could bring "a more nuanced U.S. policy toward Georgia."

"Saakashvili has promised to hold himself to a higher standard," he said. "This is his only chance of success. Without that, he hasn't a chance with the new administration."


By sending tanks and troops into Georgia in August, Russia served notice it was ready to defend "privileged interests" in its ex-Soviet backyard, repelling what it sees as a threat from NATO's eastward expansion.

Washington pledged $1 billion in aid and economic help after the war and, much to Moscow's annoyance, sent warships to the Black Sea coast carrying humanitarian supplies. Moscow in return made much of sending its own naval vessels to take part in exercises not that far from U.S. coastal waters.

The war deepened division within Europe over the wisdom of extending NATO membership to Georgia and Ukraine.

Analysts say the issue will not be a priority for Obama, compared with arms control, Iran and Afghanistan -- all issues on which Washington will court Russian cooperation.
Bush's policy in eastern Europe and the Caucasus had set the U.S. on a collision course with Russia, Mankoff said.

The Bush White House laid the blame for the August war squarely on Moscow. But Obama's comments at the time gave the impression he had "a more nuanced view of what was going on," Mankoff said.

"The war this summer was a sharp reminder that you cannot ignore Russia," he said.
Western diplomats concede Georgia's NATO ambitions were dealt a severe blow by Saakashvili's decision to launch an air and ground assault on South Ossetia -- which threw off Tbilisi's rule in the 1990s -- and by Russia's crushing response.

Georgia has lost what little control it had over South Ossetia and the second breakaway region of Abkhazia, now recognized by Moscow as independent states.
Tens of thousands of Georgian refugees face little prospect of returning home in the foreseeable future, and investor flight has compounded the effects of the global financial crisis.
Several key allies have split with the president, and the resurgent opposition is demanding his resignation.

"I can see the departure of the Bush administration changing Georgians' view of Saakashvili," Mankoff said. "With the new administration coming in, his ability to turn to the U.S. administration for support diminishes."

Georgian residents asked Russian militants to protect them during the recent military conflict in the Caucasus

Georgians asked Russian soldiers to save them during Georgian military attacks of South Ossetia. "War is always a tragedy. Peaceful Georgian residents also suffered. Local residents asked, "Father, don't leave us! When your soldiers leave us, we will perish!"

Certainly, we tried to support them," head of the Air Landing Troops and Strategic Missile Forces section of the Moscow Patriarchate Synodal Department for cooperation with law-enforcement bodies and the armed forces Archpriest Mikhail Vasilyev said in his interview published by the Krasnaya Zvezda paper on Tuesday.

He noted, "None of Georgian churches or houses were destroyed" by Russian militants in the course of the conflict.

"They even brought Georgian police to Poti and Gori! Priests worked at the platoon posts. Metropolitans of Poty and Gory expressed their gratitude to our militants for human attitude to people, for giving bodies of the killed Georgian militants to their relatives," Fr. Mikhail said.
The priest also told that not long before Georgia unleashed its military campaign, he attended the Caucasus 2008 military exercises in the South Ossetia, where paratroopers honed their military skills in mountains.

"Unfortunately, they had to use their skills very soon. Militants of "winged infantry" even didn't have time to come back home from their maneuvers! It once again proves that statements of Georgian side about "planned aggression" are absolute disinformation. The Georgian side practiced planned geopolitical scenarios. Many documents prove that foreign experts participated in getting ready for this war," he said.

Russia-S.Ossetia friendship treaty comes into force

A friendship and cooperation agreement between Russia and the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia has come into force, the Russian foreign minister said on Tuesday.
Sergei Lavrov said Moscow and Tskhinvali would soon sign an array of agreements on cooperation in the military sphere, border protection and trade.

Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another Georgian separatist republic, as independent states on August 26 last year, two weeks after the end of a five-day military conflict which began when Georgian forces launched an attack on South Ossetia.

The friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance treaties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia were signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last November.

Under the pacts, Russia has pledged to help the republics protect their borders, and the signatories have granted each other the right to set up military bases in their respective territories.

The treaties recognize dual citizenship, as the majority of people living in South Ossetia and Abkhazia are Russian passport holders. Russia has also agreed to unify its transportation, energy and communications infrastructure with the republics.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia have so far only been recognized by Russia and Nicaragua. Belarus has said it may recognize the breakaway regions in the future, and Venezuela has voiced support for Russia's move.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Russia: arms sales to Georgia will draw sanctions

President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered the Russian government to introduce economic sanctions against countries supplying weapons to Georgia.

Medvedev's decree says the Cabinet must work out "special economic measures" against foreign countries, organizations and individuals that sell weapons to Georgia, a former Soviet republic.
The text of Medvedev's decree was released Monday by the Kremlin. It didn't elaborate on the specific sanctions Russia might declare.

PACE president:New info on Caucasus events leads to totally different discussion

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) President Luis Maria de Puig, now in Moscow on a visit, said a report he and other members of PACE's presidential committee have received throws new light on the events in South Ossetia in August 2008. After additional information was received today, an opportunity emerges for holding a totally different discussion [at PACE's session in January] and for passing a different resolution, Luis Maria de Puig told journalists on Monday.
The PACE president answered in the affirmative the question from Interfax, whether most of the PACE members are changing their position on the August events compared to the assessment made at the October session.

It is difficult to speak for all members, De Puig said. Perhaps some will not change their position, and not become either more pro-Russian, or more anti-Russian, he added. But it looks like an overwhelming majority will be open for cooperation with Russia after additional information has been received from the Russian side, he said.

De Puig praised he the contacts he had with representatives of the Russian government and parliament.

The results of the meetings held were good, including with State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov leader of the Russian delegation to PACE Konstantin Kosachyov and other figures, he said. A large amount of information, earlier unknown to PACE, was provided, he added.

Discussions will be held at PACE's winter session, opening January 26, on the current situation in Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and they will proceed with the additional information, received in Moscow today, taken into account, De Puig said.

The draft resolution on this issue would probably not demand that Russia disavow the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia's independence, he said.

De Puig said that in his opinion PACE would not go deep into this matter, adding that national independence was not an issue to be tackled by PACE, but referred to the competence of the governments of the Council of Europe's member-states.

Kosachyov in turn highly appraised the talks held in Moscow by members of PACE's presidential committee and Russian officials.

"I fully agree with Mr. De Puig in that the situation has been gradually changing and that the nature of the upcoming discussion is changing, too. Whereas in October we would not always hear each other's arguments, now we are passing over to a constructive dialogue in an attempt to decide how we should move further," the Russia lawmaker said.

"If the resolution to be passed at the January session has the same tonality as today's exchange of views, the Russian delegation in a body will be ready to support it," Kosachyov said.

Monday, January 19, 2009

PACE Delegation Visits Moscow over Georgia

The presence of Georgian troops in the areas adjacent to Abkhazia and South Ossetia trigger frequent cross-border shooting incidents, Boris Gryzlov, the speaker of the Russia's State Duma told visiting group of lawmakers from the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE) in Moscow on January 18.

The Presidential Committee of PACE, led by its President, Lluís Maria de Puig, is visiting Moscow as part of the follow-up to the Assembly's October, 2008 resolution on the consequences of the war between Georgia and Russia. The delegation, which is watching into implementation of the resolution, visited Tbilisi in late October. The Assembly is due to debate a new report on the matter on January 28 during its winter plenary session in Strasbourg
The Russia's State Duma press office reported that during the meeting Boris Gryzlov said "shooting incidents across the borders are provoked by the Georgian side."

The Georgian police forces moved into the areas adjacent to the breakaway regions after the Russian troops withdrew from those territories in October, 2008. A total of eleven Georgian policemen have been killed in those areas as a result of shooting incidents after the August war; the most recent fatal incident took place at the South Ossetian administrative border on January 16.

The Speaker of Russia's State Duma also complained to the PACE delegation about, what Moscow calls, "cutting of gas supplies to South Ossetia by the Georgian side." Tbilisi says that gas supply has been suspended after the pipeline was damaged in the August war.
Boris Gryzlov also raised the issue of, as he put it, "blocking of Russian TV channels and the Russian websites by Georgia."

"I believe that this is not in line with the principle of free dissemination of information and democratic standard of freedom of speech," Gryzlov added.

While Georgia has fully unblocked websites on the .ru domain in October, Russian television stations, which carry news, still remain blocked. The Russian stations affected, however, are still available on satellite, but most viewers had accessed them through cable.

Boris Grizlov Accuses Georgia of Non-Compliance with Medvedev-Sarkozy Truce

Speaker of Russian DUMA Boris Grizlov accuses Georgia of non-compliance with Medvedev-Sarkozy truce.Boris Grizlov made the following statement at the meeting with the delegation of EC of Parliamentary Assembly. RIA Novosti reports regarding this.

The session of EC Parliamentary Consultation Assembly will be held in Moscow today, where the issue of fulfillment of resolution of October adopted by the Russian Federation will be discussed. Last year in October the Assembly called Russia to abolish the decision of recognition of independence of Abkhazia and so called South Ossetia.According to the statement of Grizlov, Georgian side reinforces its forces on the vicinity of Abkhazia and South Ossetia which hinders maintaining stabilization in the regions. The sparker stressed that such a stance of Tbilisi determines accidents.

Grizlov express his surprise regarding blocking Russian channels in Georgia by Georgian side.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Russia-NATO Council to hold informal meeting on Jan. 26

The Russia-NATO Council will hold an informal meeting on January 26 in Brussels, the Russian envoy to the military alliance said on Monday. Dmitry Rogozin earlier said Russia and NATO were moving toward "a normalization in bilateral relations." NATO foreign ministers agreed in early December at a meeting in Brussels to gradually restore contacts with Moscow, frozen after Russia's armed conflict with Georgia in August.
NATO called Russia's military response to Georgia's attack on South Ossetia "disproportionate" and condemned Moscow's decision in late August to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway province, as independent states.

In response to NATO's decision to halt cooperation, Russia put on hold a number of programs, including the Partnership for Peace program, a high-ranking visit to Moscow, some joint naval training and NATO visits to Russian ports.

However Russia continued its work with NATO on arms control, cooperation in airspace, and the war in Afghanistan.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Alexandr Brod: "International observers are not interested in South Ossetian gas problems"

At the time of Ukraine's transit gas blockade lots of people forget about the fact of the Georgian gas blockade. Today this is a real burning problem for the Ossetians, even stoves don't help. The Georgian officials, answering the question "Why?" say "It's too risky".
Both Russia and South Ossetia say the gas pipe was observed, repaired and now it is ready for gas transit. The Georgians say the gas pipe is damaged and gas supply is too dangerous. It seems even more dangerous than to get frozen in the cold and ruined houses.
"This is a huge problem, but today nobody does pay attention to it, - says the head of the Moscow human Rights bureau Alexandr Brod. Everything is concentrated around the military events. Russia, after declaring the independence of South Ossetia, should be responsible for the further peaceful development of Republic. It needs building and restoring houses, hospitals and municipal buildings in South Ossetia. Of course such things as gas supply as well as medical equipment delivery should be controlled very carefully".
Nowadays the situation in South Ossetia is the following. People live in the cold and ruined houses while the Georgians are thinking of a political revenge. European observers who could help in the current situation are getting frozen in Europe themselves.
"It is remarkable, that the international observers as well as human rights organizations don't deal with this problem, - admits Alexandr Brod. - It seems, they all occupy a position which was determined long before. Human rights activists care more about political issues, the smaller problems, as gas blockade or people safety, are not worthy for them. It's their right, it's their choice. First of all it is Russia, who should ensure the life, these people deserve. Unfortunately the Ossetians still can't return to a normal life".

Does the US-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership Challenge Russia?

The Charter on Strategic Partnership between Georgia and the United States, signed during the last days of the Bush Administration, has aroused various reactions, from enthusiastic to cautious optimism in the Georgian political establishment. In the situation, when Russia and Georgia actually found themselves in the "Cold War" conflict, there is no political force in Georgia, which doubts the political significance of the document.
Only Georgia's Labor Party, keeping a bit aloof from the others, has stated that the Charter is the first step to the U.S. military presence in Georgia, the issue which is allegedly being negotiated behind-the-scenes. But the Georgian authorities zealously deny that kind of supposition.
Indeed, such kind of document could not include the direct indication for the deployment of the U.S. military bases in Georgia.
However, the part of the Charter, which covers the issues of military cooperation between Georgia and U.S.A., contains the items, which make the document different from that one, recently signed between Washington and Kyiv. The United States-Georgia Charterpays much more attention to the military aspect of cooperation. The Charter makes it clear, that the U.S.-Georgia cooperation in military and security spheres will grow stronger, increasing Georgia's chances for integration into NATO. The point in the Charter which urges Russia to follow the Ceasefire Agreement, dated August 12, 2008, and non-use of force is actually a warning to the Kremlin.
Another point of the Charter covers the development of the existing programs on bilateral cooperation in military and security spheres in order to "eliminate threats to peace and stability". Under certain conditions, if the sides consider such threats to become real, that point can come into being by reinforcing U.S. military presence in Georgia to a varying extent.
Despite the fact, that the Charter doesn't provide the United States with the commitment to offer military support to Georgia in case of escalation of an armed conflict against it, it will no doubt be a kind of a red rag for the Kremlin. As according to the Charter, which was successfully negotiated with the new U.S. Administration, Americans will tend to enhance their influence over the Caucasian region. It is proved by the item devoted to "the development of the new Southern Corridor" (in circumvention of Russia)in order to diversify the exports of energy supplies destined for Georgia and EU member states. The project would seriously break down Russia's economic and geopolitical interests in the region.
The article of the Charter, calling on the measures for the reconciliation between Georgians, Abkhazians and Ossetians can also alert Russia. The locals of Abkhazia and South Ossetia - Georgia's separatist regions, recognized by Moscow, express growing discontent with Russia's intrusion into their lands, including the deployment of the Russian military bases and behavior of the Russian militaries.
It is difficult to forecast how diligently the Administration of President Barack Obama will follow the above-mentioned articles of the Charter. But there is a high probability (taking into consideration the increased tension in the Russia-U.S. relations) that Russia would consider the Charter as a challenge to its interests in South Caucasus. In this light, the Charter appears to lead to the further complications in the volatile Russia-Georgia relations. It will probably bolster the Kremlin to destructive actions against Georgia, once more turning the country into the arena of confrontation between the big international players.
Under such conditions the Georgian officials should act very carefully in order not to draw themselves and the country into a new armed conflict with Russia. However, the bitter experience of the August war is a vivid example of impossibility to avoid hostilities when it is already "pre-programmed."

Facts of Crimes in South Ossetia: Results of Investigation

General Prosecutor office of Russia claims that the Georgian military crimes against South Ossetia can be qualified as genocide. The head of the Inquiry Commission of the General Prosecutor office Alexandr Bastrikin told that at the press-conference on December 23. "We have all the reasons for qualifying Georgian actions during the August war as aggressive and directed against the whole nation of the Ossetians", - said Bastrikin. Also he mentioned that "the recognition of genocide doesn't imply the quantity of dead, the motives and malicious intents are important".


"The Inquiry Commission disposes the facts, that witness the Georgians preparation for the War since the August 2005", - reported Bastrikin. The inquiry disposes the materials which were confiscated during the withdrawal of the Georgian militaries. "These are the war plans of invading South Ossetia and Abkhazia which the Georgian high command developed in 2005 - 2007".

In those plans it was certainly clear that the Georgian militaries were going to destroy military objects as well as civilian, including the villages where people lived and the headquarters of the Russian peacekeepers".

Bastrikin stressed that the investigation has a non-political character. "All the information we will send to the international investigators will be truthful and checked", - told Bastrikin.


"During the War 48 Russian militants were killed. 10 of them were from the peacekeeping battalion. 157 soldiers were wounded", - reported Bastrikin. He also told that among the Ossetians there are more than 5 000 victims of the Georgian aggression. There are 162 men killed in the official casualties list of General Prosecutor office, but Bastrikin added that a lot of people were burying their friends and relatives in the gardens and yards, so the final number of the deceased will be greater.


The participation in the Conflict of the foreign mercenaries was also proved by the Inquiry Comission. Clothes, photos, uniform and notebooks - all that proved the partaking in the War by the members of the Ukraine movement "UNA-UNSO". Also Russian investigators found an order of the Georgian Ministry of Domestic Affairs dated July 27, due to which the militants of "UNA-UNSO" were given ammunition.
Besides that, Bastrikin told that the Georgian army also included American, Turkish, Czech and Ukraine mercenaries. Prejudicial evidence and interrogation of the Georgian soldiers proved this fact.

International Inquiry

Bastrikin admitted the possibility of creating a special legal commission like the Hague Tribunal. He told that after the investigation is over all the materials will be given to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia for representing them to the international investigators.
Today the Georgian military crimes are investigated by Russian prosecutors under 2 articles of the Criminal Code of Russia. They are "Murder" and "Genocide". But as Bastrikin told "very soon the list of the articles will be expanded. We will investigate this case also by such articles as "Fighting an aggressive war", "Hiring mercenaries", "An armed attack on the people and building which are under international protection" and "Using the forbidden wepons".

Alexey Leonov,